Family Evacuation Planning and Kit

Whether you believe that man is contributing substantially to global warming or not, global warming is a reality. It will be creating events (storms, floods, fires, earthquakes) more frequently and more cataclysmic in terms of impact for the foreseeable future. That is a fact. Another fact for you – ONLY 35-40% of AMERICANS have an evacuation plans and kits for their family today.

Building your Family Evacuation Kit(s) to make sure your family can survive for 3-5 days after a catastrophic event is the only control that you have when one of these events enters your life. Where you live will have some bearing on what your kit should have in it but not much really. Your Plan and Kit is a way to make sure that your family has what it needs to survive without any of the services normally available. Below you will find several different sources of information about what your Family Evacuation Kits should have in them. They essentially say the same things. Some call for more or less of given components and some have some regional considerations but all will help your family be better off than they are now, when one of these events enters your life.

What follows are my suggestions. Building a Family Evacuation Kit(s) is not glamorous or fun per say but it doesn’t have to be a drag either. It should be an opportunity to develop some skills, assemble some material, share some memories and fears…like so many things.. It can be a joyful task where parents and children can appreciate each other and spend some time together.

This is about building protection for your family – humans and pets. To do this you will need three things to start and a fourth to always be prepared:

  1. Universal understanding of what we are going to do together.
  2. A leader who will make sure that all of the parts of the plan are done as agreed
  3. Do-er Bees who will do the tasks called for in the plan as agreed. Everyone must do their part.
  4. Discipline – to create, test and maintain preparedness.

Getting Started – Understand Why and Assess Current State:

  1. Have the conversations. Over dinner talk about what is happening to families just like yours during these events. Talk about what kinds of events are most likely to happen in your area. The idea is not to frighten but enlighten. How prepared is our family?
  2. Agree to a test. Someone will decide over the next week to hold a drill. Each family member will be required to get everything that they will need to last 3 days without any other services available – In ONE HOUR. Collect all of the material in the garage or the car?
  3. After One Hour – Assess how you did:
  • Inventory all of the things that were collected for the evacuation. Compare the inventory to the FEMA Kit List (LINK).
  • Review the tasking:
    • Who took care of the pets? grandma and grandpa?
    • Who made sure to get all of the meds? Gas for the Car? Important Papers, Photos, Money, etc.
    • Was everyone at home? No,how prepared are you to survive at work or school?
      • There must be a family evacuation kit at home
      • There may be a need for a one person kit at a workplace or school.
      • Do the workplaces or schools where your family goes have “shelter in place” provisions for 3-5 days? Ask and then prepare for the answer you get.
    • Would everyone have been ok after 3-5 days with you collected? Be brutally honest.

Getting Ready – Upgrading Current State to Desired State:

  1. Have the conversations: Talk about what you learned about getting out in one hour. Talk about what might have happened if your family got no outside help at all and had to shelter in place or maybe attempt to get out with just what you collected. How did it feel? Did everyone understand the importance of doing their part? Did everyone know what they were supposed to do?
  2. Everyone is busy. Family members already have a lot of responsibilities, But being prepare for an emergency is important, Getting Ready is Urgent. Who wants to be our family captain? Our captain must be willing to check and double check our plan and kit. They must be willing to remind us when the kit needs to be maintained. The Captain can be anyone in the family who can read, understand what has to happen and be willing to follow up. The Captain roll can be rotated amongst family members and any family member can help the Captain.
  3. The Captain builds a shopping list to complete our Family Evacuation Kits(s)
    • Obtain the Evacuation Kit dedicated containers, food, flashlights, batteries, etc
  4. Assemble the Evacuation Kit and show every one where everything is. Include an print out of all of the materials in the kit and a check list of all of the tasks that must be done should evacuation be ordered
  5. Do the one hour drill again. Compare what is assembled and ready in one hour to the lists. Assess and Adjust, as needed.

Celebrate!! You are as ready as you can be. Keep a good thought that your family will never need to use this kit and be comforted that you have done everything you can to survive until help can get to you.

Keeping Ready – Maintaining the Desired State Readiness:

  1. Have the conversations. Maybe when the Captain role changes to another family member.
  2. The Captain should review the contents of the Kit from time to time and rotate material out and replace it based upon expiration dates and other variables. Things change. Family members have changing needs or circumstances.
  3. Does the Kit need to be adjusted based upon changes in the family?
  4. Do the one hour drill. Assess results and adjust kit or plan.
  5. Celebrate after every drill and talk about what you learned together.
  6. REPEAT!

Resources (and almost all of these have additional resources within them):

FEMA – Ready – Build a Kit site – This a clear concise guide from FEMA

FEMA – Kit Check List– This is FEMA’s printable Kit Check List

Be Prepared California – Be Prepared site A California specific guide slanted a bit towards fires and earthquakes but it talks to business and school preparedness as well as individual. Hey, with fracking and such it may be more applicable than I originally thought. 

Prepare for Emergencies Now: For Pet Owners– Helpful FEMA guide 

Prepare for Emergencies Now: For People with Disabilities–  Helpful FEMA guide

BankRate – What to do after a natural disaster – This is a commercial guide with an agenda which also contains some clear guidance that may be helpful when and if you find you and your family in a natural disaster situation.

County of Los Angeles – Emergency Survival Guide– Another California specific document but very comprehensive, clear, concise and well organized. No matter where you are from reading and using the applicable parts of this guide will help you be safer in an emergency. This document might even be worth while to print out all and augment with your local data or add some of it to your Evacuation Kit.

How to Make a Survival Kit: A Complete Checklist: Montem Outdoor Gear – This is a Hiking Blog that has a good survival checklist and some very clear and concise kit building considerations. There is also a very interesting video on how you can make a toolset that fits into a “altoid” tin that could save your life if you are stranded without resources. I was very impressed when the folks managing the content for their website reached out. Their site is a helpful and interesting resource.